By Owen Cuseo, Noah Salem, Jodie Woodruff and Chris Jackson

It’s easy to forget that Elon Musk—inventor of the driverless car, possible future terraformer of Mars—was himself once just a student, aspiring to be the revolutionary scientist he is now considered.

Just as it can sometimes be difficult to imagine that any one of the young people walking around us at schools every day might one day go on to cure cancer, or solve the world’s climate issues. But that may simply be because you haven’t met Owen Cuseo, a self-proclaimed “astrophysicist in training” at Big Picture Learning’s Met High School in Providence, RI.

Owen dreams big, and isn’t shy in his belief that the “Universe is Rad.” For his senior thesis project he’ll be taking this belief on the road, convincing others that if we look just beyond our own atmosphere, we’ll see the limitless potential that lies above.

Limitless potential. It’s a turn of phrase we can apply just as easily to the current learners/future scientists that surround us in schools every day. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them around the world. How do we know? That many of them sent in video submissions to Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual global competition sponsored, among others, by Khan Academy, National Geographic and Facebook, to inspire creative thinking about science. And of those more than 100,000 video submissions, thirty have been chosen to compete in a final round competition, from which 10 will be selected to attend an awards ceremony this December in California. Owen is one of these 30 students!

It’s a story literally written in the stars. In middle school, Owen was failing the sciences (like Einstein famously before him). It was through his experience at the Met that Owen found opportunities to rub elbows with academics at Brown University and MIT, from whom Owen uncovered a new passion for astrophysics and planetary geology. All of sudden entropy increased, and a brand new universe of knowledge opened up for him.

Stop. Wait. Entropy? Ah, so glad you asked. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge asks students from across the world to choose a scientific topic and describe it in an interesting fashion. Owen chose the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, of which entropy is a key ingredient. Here: see for yourself!

While the universe is rad, it is also ambivalent. Frankly, the universe doesn’t care if we get up in the morning or stay in bed all day. But we care! We act. We engage. We take what the universe serves up and use that to springboard ourselves toward our own futures.

And now we ask you to act. You have a chance to positively impact Owen’s universe. To propel him toward his future as an astrophysicist, but—more literally—help earn him a seat at the Breakthrough Junior Challenge championships. The student whose video receives the most Facebook likes will be automatically transported to the finals, where he or she will have a chance to mingle with Elon Musk, Sal Kahn, Mark Zuckerberg, and others.

So please take a moment to click through to Owen’s video, give it a like and share with your own community. Every Elon Musk, every Albert Einstein had a group of people in their corner. We’re asking you to be in Owen’s.

(1) Watch his video on the Breakthrough Challenge’s Facebook page

(2) “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs-up sign

(3) “Share” the video, encouraging your own friends and family to follow in your footsteps.

If you’re interested in going beyond that, we invite you to learn more about Big Picture Learning, a network which aims to build schools around students instead of bending students to school.

For more, see:

Owen Cuseo and Noah Salem are both students at the Met School in Providence, RI.

Jodie Woodruff leads the Met School’s Entrepreneurship Center, the first of its kind in the nation.

Chris Jackson is Big Picture Learning’s Chief Communications Officer. Follow him on twitter at @cjacksonj13.


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